Facebook and Privacy: Are you Lily and James’ Secret Keeper?

art by Mary GrandPre/Scholastic

Almost a year ago it came to light that along with the 800 million authentic Facebook accounts, there may exist more than 80 million ‘shadow’ accounts, created by Facebook from information it has collected on people who have never signed up for or even used Facebook. Here are the articles if you missed them:

Daily Mail.co.uk Story
Fox News Story

There’s a lot you can do now to customize privacy on your own account, but how do you protect yourself from your friends? You can be meticulous in not listing where you live, where you work, and skip location tagging on any of your content, but you can’t stop your friend from posting a picture of you at Chili’s and linking to Chili’s website. Suddenly, there’s a map of your neighborhood with a pin with your name on it stuck on that Chili’s location. You can remove yourself from the tags after the fact, and you can ignore or reject relation requests, but that doesn’t stop facebook-happy family members from making those requests, or FB from storing that request history. And keep in mind the only people with the ability to reject, untag, block, and censor info within Facebook, are people who are ACTUALLY ON Facebook. Ironically, by not using Facebook, you actually have no control over what sort of information is shared about you on that platform.

Is it possible to develop a new standard of etiquette for respecting your FB friend’s privacy? To assume by default that others might be more guarded with their personal info than yourself? The challenge is, in the fun of socializing on this platform, it’s easy to forget that Facebook itself is one of the characters. If I feel like I’m having a conversation with my cousin, I’m happy to tell her directions to my house… it seems more reasonable than if Facebook put interrogation lights in my face and said, “Who were you with last night? Tell us your address and detailed directions to your house.”

In the Harry Potter books, Harry’s parents were killed because the person they decided to trust with the location of their secret hiding place betrayed them, and sold the information to Lord Voldemort. This traitor is of course a true villain, because he knew the importance of the secret and purposefully gave it to the enemy. But suppose he hadn’t been a turncoat, and instead had thoughtlessly checked into Foursquare during one of his visits to Godric’s Hollow? The story would have turned out the same, except cheesier (wizards on mobile phones? Gag).

I’m just saying, we need to give our friends the right to decide how much personal information Facebook has on them. Do unto others, folks.

TLDR; Facebook is Lord Voldemort.